A good week for shares ends new year's bumpy ride

While there are fair few corporate results still to come next week in the latest earnings season, the stockmarket appears to have already given its verdict.

While there are fair few corporate results still to come next week in the latest earnings season, the stockmarket appears to have already given its verdict.

Friday's 21-point rise in both major indices - the ASX 200 and All Ordinaries - capped off a good week for the bourse. The ASX 200 rose 2.6 per cent since Monday - a creditable performance after the bumpy ride since the start of the year.

It was also the biggest five-day rise since early December, when retailers were downplaying any growth in sales before the Christmas trading period because of the continuing consumer spending strike and Greece's debt crisis was playing havoc with the international markets.

Those factors continue to affect investor sentiment but a slew of reasonable company profit figures, buttressed by good dividend payments, have helped offset some of that negativity. So much so that the ASX 200 managed to break through the 4300 barrier again - a feat not achieved for 12 weeks.

The industrial and energy sectors led the way with strong earnings growth, according to the latest research of profit season by Citi's equity research team.

They were followed by telecoms, healthcare and consumer staples with financials and property bringing up the rear before the results performance is dragged down by negative contributions from the materials, IT and utilities sectors.

Across the top 200 companies, Citi is pricing in aggregate earnings growth of just 11 per cent for 2012 - down from 17.7 per cent last year and a far cry from the 29.6 per cent achieved in 2010.

The ASX 200 is now priced on an earnings multiple of 11 times, which may explain why investors are prepared to dip into the market and pick up some of the cheaper stocks.

As far as consumer sentiment is concerned, first-half results from Woolworths, the country's biggest retailer, and Harvey Norman will give a real sense of whether the early signs of a pick-up in spending - as detected by the retailer David Jones - is also more than just a blip.

In the meantime, the market will continue to be affected by events overseas, in particular the euro debt crisis, where the latest Greek bailout is by no means certain to succeed, and by a nascent US recovery that is more likely to drive our stocks upwards.

A positive performance from Wall Street was one of the factors that helped lift the local market yesterday and saw the ASX 200 finish 20.6 points higher, or 0.48 per cent, at 4306.8 points. The All Ordinaries added 21.5 points to 4389.

A CommSec analyst, Juliette Saly, said it was encouraging to see the market gain strength towards the close of the trading session.

European markets were subdued overnight, but US markets gained ground after jobless claims data signalled that the American labour market was getting back on its feet

NAB was the strongest performer of the big four banks, rising 31?, or 1.34 per cent, to $23.52. ANZ was up 13? at $22.20, Westpac rose 12? to $20.78 and Commonwealth Bank rose 18? to $49.70.

Mining giant BHP Billiton rose 31? to $36.54, while Rio Tinto gained 58? to $68.09.

Ms Saly said the retail sector performed well, with David Jones gaining 10?, or 3.92 per cent, to $2.65, while Kathmandu rose 4.5?, or 3 per cent, to $1.53.

Virgin Australia continued to rise in the wake of the airline's strong earnings report on Thursday.

Virgin finished up 1.5?, or 3.8 per cent, at 41?.

The spot price of gold finished at $US1780.20 per ounce, up $US6.80.

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